BPO, CallCenter, Contact Centre, News

The Internet of Things

By Martin Conboy

Internet-of-ThingsCan you remember the TV show the Jetsons? The Jetson family lived in a futuristic utopia with robots, holograms and space age inventions that seem very far-fetched at the time. Imagine that Jetson-esque world in the future where everyday objects such as fridges, air conditioners, cars and security systems, etc. are intelligent and can talk to each other and their manufacturer. Well that world is already here today! A new report reveals how consumer-facing brands can embrace the Internet of Things (IoT) to create actual value for businesses and consumers alike.

According to Cisco The Internet of Everything is a $19 trillion global opportunity over the next decade: Private-sector firms can create as much as $14.4 trillion of value while cities, governments and other public-sector organizations can create $4.6 trillion.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is where objects, animals or people are provided with unique identifiers embedded in electronics, software and sensors that can transfer data via a network. It connects the actual physical world with the digital world through the Internet[i]. The emergence of wireless technologies such as RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and other web-based technology has allowed IoT to emerge. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure.

IoT can refer to a wide range of devices such as heart monitoring implants, biochip transponders, appliances with built-in sensors and so on. These devices collect useful data about the object or person and then upload that data so it can be shared and viewed remotely.

Typically, IoT is expected to offer advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine communications and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications. The interconnection of these embedded devices (including smart objects), is expected to usher in automation in nearly all fields, while also enabling advanced applications like a Smart Grid.

The concept of a network of smart devices was discussed as early as 1982, with a modified Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University becoming the first internet-connected appliance, able to report its inventory and whether newly loaded drinks were cold.

According to a new report by Altimeter Group, Customer experience in The Internet of Things by Jessica Groopman, IoT represents the next era of computing.

“IoT is a platform for connecting people, objects, and environments to inform and enable visibility, engagement, and innovation. Using a wearable fitness tracker to monitor your exercise is one thing.”

“Yet the real value comes when biometric sensor data in the tracker can connect to a post-surgical recovery plan, communicate healing progress back to the surgeon in real time, show how the patient’s progress compares to other (anonymous) patients’, and suggest more effective ways to expedite healing and mobility.”

At Apple’s March 2015 event, the company announced ResearchKit, a software framework that allows medical researchers to get data directly from iPhone users. The company said that users can sign up to participate in medical research and use their iPhones as diagnostic tools. One example the company gave is a study for Parkinson’s disease that asks the user to perform quick tests on their phone to help diagnose it. The company hopes that it will help change the way clinical studies are made; it’s currently very difficult to get people to participate in studies. A short video shown during the event noted that one study sent out 60,000 letters to potential participants and only received about 300 replies. Many institutions are hoping that making it easier to opt-in will provide unprecedented amounts of data for studies.

This ability to connect data with things and the Internet can transform and reinvent the consumer’s experience. It offers;

  • Greater insights and visibility into the needs and preferences of consumers and their respective communities
  • Enhanced and improved engagement between brands and their customers.
  • New areas for innovation and automation.

According to Gartner there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020.[20] ABI Research estimates that more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things (Internet of Everything) by 2020.

Empowering the consumer

Traditional media and marketing relied on a one way broadcast model where brands set the agenda. Social media and the Internet has transformed how brands and consumers interact. Establishing two-way communications between the brand and the consumer allows the consumer to set much of the agenda. The old command and control economy is fast disappearing and being replaced by businesses that devolve power back to the customer. Companies who fail to recognise this new normal will quickly become redundant. Future shock is a new challenge for businesses stuck in the last century.

According to the Altimeter report, The Internet of Things creates the opportunity for any element of the brand experience to have a voice. IoT enables multi-way communications between brand and consumer, brand and object, consumer and object, and object and object. The result is empowerment of each.

As well as empowering the consumer, IoT can offer significant benefits for sales, marketing, customer service and product development in terms of brand awareness, insight, contextual relevance, satisfaction, efficiency, loyalty, innovation, and conversion.

By leveraging sensors and data, IoT may allow brands to achieve the ultimate marketing objective of delivering the right content or experience to the right person at the right time via the most appropriate channel[ii]. Creating and monitoring sensor-based touch points in the offline world provides brands empirical, often customer-driven, insights that bridge the historically mysterious gap between how consumers behave online and what they do in conjunction offline.

The more consumers are inspired and enabled to do within the context of their brand interactions, the more brand and consumer agendas can align. Realising this requires an ongoing dialog between both sides, meaning brands must constantly prioritise utility, experience, service, and tangible value creation. IoT has the potential of being a key enabler in allowing brands and consumers to evolve together, where their priorities are better aligned.

As outsourced contact centres are currently in a unique position to capitalise on this trend, they will need to morph into ‘Listening’ posts rather than transaction processing facilities.

Overcoming the challenges

Even though IoT offers plenty of opportunities, its widespread adoption faces significant challenges. Privacy is obviously a major concern and perhaps the biggest test facing its development and deployment is the lack of shared standards for developing devices, infrastructure and applications. Electrical power is another significant challenge as most devices currently operate on batteries with limited shelf life. Then there’s a host of issues around data security and privacy. Solving these issues will take time and investment.

Adoption of the Internet of Things faces tremendous challenges—around power, latency, costs, industry alignment on shared standards, protocols, and infrastructure for interoperability; around data integrity, security, access, and control; and around risk aversion, trust, and privacy. it will not happen overnight but It will happen!

[i] http://www.altimetergroup.com/pdf/reports/Customer-Experience-in-the-Internet-of-Things-Altimeter-Group.pdf

[ii] http://www.altimetergroup.com/pdf/reports/Customer-Experience-in-the-Internet-of-Things-Altimeter-Group.pdf

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Originally Published in the Sauce eNewsletter – theOutsourcing-Guide.com


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